Action on the ground: A review of community environmental groups’ restoration objectives, activities and partnerships in New Zealand
- School of Science, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
- Technology, Environmental, Mathematics and Science Education Research Centre, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand
More than 600 community environmental groups across New Zealand are engaged in restoring degraded sites and improving and protecting habitat for native species. In the face of ongoing biodiversity declines, resource management agencies are increasing their reliance on these groups to enhance conservation outcomes nationally. However, little is known about community groups and their activities beyond local or regional studies. Our aim was to develop a profile of community groups and their projects through examining group and project characteristics, objectives, activities and the support provided by project partners. A total of 296 community groups from all mainland regions of New Zealand responded to an online questionnaire. Nearly 80% of these groups were established for ≥6 years and 72% operated with ≤20 participants (e.g. staff, members, and unpaid volunteers). For over half (54%) of groups, participants were mostly aged 51–65 years. Small group-sizes, combined with ageing participants, may threaten groups’ longevity. More than 20% of groups’ projects covered areas > 501 ha. Ecosystems represented within groups’ project areas included forests (64.0%), streams (42.0%) and freshwater wetlands (33.2%). Over one-third (37.2%) of freshwater wetland restoration projects occurred on private or Maori-owned land. Nearly 70% of groups carried out weed/pest control, native tree planting and advocacy/educational activities, underscoring the combination of social and ecological dimensions shaping most groups’ projects. Over 90% of groups were supported by project partners (e.g. resource management agencies for site visits, funding and technical support), highlighting the interdependence between groups and their partners. Developing a more complete profile of New Zealand community groups and their projects will assist with improving the delivery of support to groups by project partners and developing an inclusive and cohesive sector based on meaningful partnerships. These two factors combined will ultimately enhance groups’ environmental outcomes at the local level, while contributing to national biodiversity conservation goals.